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October 9, 2015

Fake Faux Fur Scandal: Mislabelling of Fur Clothing and Accessories in the UK

Humane Society International/United Kingdom

  • A raccoon dog in the wild. Alamy

Through extensive research, HSI UK has discovered that many animal fur items for sale in the UK, especially in independent boutiques, in markets and online, are either not labelled at all, or are incorrectly labelled or marketed as synthetic.

For the vast majority of British shoppers who reject the cruelty of the fur trade, trying to buy only fake fur can be a real challenge. Whether it’s raccoon dog fur bobble hats, rabbit fur key chains, or hooded coats trimmed with fox fur, misleading labelling or incorrect marketing is leading would-be ethical consumers to purchase real fur trim items in the mistaken belief that they are faux fur.

Don’t be misled—check out our guide to telling the difference between real and faux fur.

This is a double scandal—violating the rights of consumers who are not being protected from unfair trading, and artificially inflating the market for animal fur, causing immense suffering.

We believe that all retailers have a duty to ensure that they have rigorous buying and quality control procedures in place in order that they do not mislead customers.

Each year, HSI UK finds more examples of ‘fake faux fur’ for sale, from well-known outlets on the UK high street to independent shops and markets, in London and other UK cities. The problem appears to be growing particularly acute online.

How can this happen? Isn’t fur expensive?

Shockingly, real fur can now be produced and sold for less than fake fur—a calculation that’s costing animals their lives.

Life is cheap in the animal fur industry; miserably poor conditions in countries such as China—where much UK fur trim comes from – means real fur can be produced and sold very inexpensively. At online wholesalers such as Alibaba.com, retailers can bulk-buy a 70cm raccoon dog fur hood trim for £3 per piece, or a raccoon dog fur pompom for a bobble hat for just 30p per piece.

This translates into cheap items on the high-street. Here are just a few of the items we’ve recently found in the UK:

  • A knitted hat with real marmot fur bobble costing £3.50
  • A handbag charm/keyring pom pom made from rabbit fur for sale at £5 each
  • A parka with real raccoon dog fur trim around the hood priced at £35
  • A gilet made from real raccoon dog fur with a £75 price tag
  • A short sleeveless jacket made of rabbit and marmot fur for sale at £35

Check before you buy, but please do not simply rely on labels or price when taking a decision on whether fur is real or fake—an animal’s life could depend on it. Check out our guide to telling the difference between real and fake fur—and if in any doubt, please leave it on the shelf.

Buyer beware: what’s (not) on the label

Shockingly, there’s no legal requirement for animal fur to be specifically listed on a garment’s fabric content label. We’ve recently found, for example:

  • A ladies' coat with a real fur trim on the hood, labelled polyester 100%
  • A pair of fingerless gloves with real fur trim, labelled 100% acrilico [sic]
  • A knitted hat with a real fur bobble, labelled 100% acrylic
  • A pair of woolen gloves with real fur trim, labelled 80% wool, 20% polyester

By law, under the EU Textile Products Regulation (2011) a “textile product” that include parts of animal origin (for example, feathers, bone, or animal fur) must be clearly labelled or marked using the phrase “contains non-textile parts of animal origin”.

However, our retail surveys show extremely low compliance with this new Regulation, meaning consumers can’t rely on labels to avoid buying real animal fur. In addition, the fur labelling requirements under this Regulation do not apply to any non-textile items (for example a coat made primarily out of fur, or leather, which are not textiles would not legally require any fur labelling), plus shoes or accessories such as pom pom keychains are also exempt.

Current EU fur labelling laws are inadequate and poorly implemented, creating a confused marketplace.

Customers care—and deserve better

Opinion polls for decades show that the vast majority of the British public want no part in the cruel fur trade, and would not buy or wear real animal fur.

A poll commissioned by HSI/UK and conducted by YouGov shows that the vast majority (85%) of consumers expect to see real animal fur clearly labelled as such in the clothes and accessories they buy. The poll also reveals that, in addition to labelling, people rely most heavily on fur feeling synthetic (50%) and a cheap price (47%) as lead indicators to assess whether fur is real or fake. In fact, neither represents a reliable method to distinguish real from fake fur, and labels are unreliable.

UK shoppers are not getting the information they need to make informed, ethical buying choices.

Post-Brexit, HSI/UK is campaigning for a ban on the sale of all real fur in the UK, however as an urgent first step to burst the bubble of ‘fake faux fur,’ we would like to see the introduction of clear labelling of all animal fur items, from clothing to footwear and accessories. Labels should states the animal species and country of origin, as well as how the animal was raised/killed, as is already the case in the Swiss fur labelling law.

Read our blog: Lacking Infurmation

Found fake faux fur? Tell us! Use this form to send us the details.

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